Monday, June 5, 2017

Islamic State Intervenes in the British Parliamentary Elections

Prime Minister Theresa May has received what amounts to a non-stop, global campaign ad the last 24 hours thanks to terror attacks in London Saturday night that left at least seven dead and nearly 50 taken to local hospitals. Three jihadist attackers were killed by militarized police in a hail of bullets.

The headline repeated constantly Sunday was a variant of this morning's in The New York Times, "After London Attack, Prime Minister Says, ‘Enough Is Enough’." SitRep led its daily bulletin with the synopsis:
London. In the wake of Saturday’s terrorist attacks in London that killed seven people, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared, “enough is enough,” vowing to launch a sweeping review of Britain’s counterterrorism strategy after the third major terrorist attack in the country in three months. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had been carried out by “a detachment of Islamic State fighters.” The attack comes after the U.K. had already raised its terrorism alert level following a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Manchester attack, as well.
Campaigning for Thursday's election was temporarily suspended. So Theresa May largely had the airwaves to herself. (Corbyn did issue a statement.) I saw May's "enough is enough" statement after I turned on the television to see Novak Djokovic's round-of-16 match  at the French Open. I was not impressed. But then again I'm biased.

I think the benefit for May is not necessarily the quality of her statement, which was just boilerplate, but the fact that her name was invoked incessantly to the exclusion of anything else -- the victims, the Islamic State attackers -- other than maybe Ariana Grande and her return-to-Manchester concert.

But this morning there seems to be a counter-narrative developing to "enough is enough," and that is that May as home secretary backed cuts to the police force.

According to the NYT's Steven Erlanger, it is unclear how Saturday's attack will affect the election:
With the general election days away, several polls have shown Mrs. May’s lead over Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, to be narrowing.
Mr. Corbyn issued his own strong condemnation of the attacks. “We are all shocked and horrified by the brutal attacks in London,” he said in a statement. “My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died and the many who have been injured. Today, we will all grieve for their loss.”
Using different methods, pollsters are divided about the extent of the Conservative lead, but they all show the gap with Labour shrinking, making the landslide Mrs. May hoped for unlikely and even, for at least one polling company, raising the possibility of a hung Parliament.
It is too early to say how the attack will affect the vote, if at all. In general, crises tend to help the incumbent. However, Mrs. May did not seem to receive much of a polling bounce after the Manchester attack, partly because of some campaign mistakes. And as the former home secretary, she might receive some blame for perceived security failings.
Campaigning had already been suspended once, after the Manchester attack. That happened while Mrs. May was on the defensive, having had to change the position on home care policy announced just days earlier in her party’s manifesto.
One thing cannot be denied. The attack changed the direction of the campaign. All talk had been about the Tory collapse underway. Now the discussion shifts to different terrain, and it is not an easy read. Are voters sophisticated enough to know that May as home secretary and the Tories as the governing party are responsible for the status quo, and the status quo needs to change?

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